The Muslim Judicial Council of South Africa has called for unity and denounced apparent discord within the local Muslim community. Describing Ramadan 2018 as an “extremely difficult and strenuous, in a statement released on Wednesday the ulama body said the sacred month has been overshadowed by what it termed “controversy, discord and disunity from defamation and slander, to blatant disrespect and takfīrism (excommunication)”. The statement follows the retraction of support for the Cape Accord by the South Africa National Zakah Fund (SANZAF) and the South African Muslim Network (SAMNET).
The Cape Accord, a document that is based on the Amman declaration of 2004, has been authored by local scholars as a means to promote intra-Muslim cohesion in light of increasing sectarian rhetoric.
A number of Islamic institutions, organisations and masaajid have penned their names to the accord, but have reportedly faced strong criticism for their support of the document, with allegations of threats levelled against certain individuals.
SANZAF was the first organization to announce it’s retraction of support for the Cape Accord. The charity body made the announcement on Wednesday.
SANZAF’s withdrawal was followed by the South African Muslim Network (SAMNET). The organisation said its board had reflected on the “subsequent discord” that has resulted from The Cape Accord, as well as the “unintended consequences that have followed resulting in exactly the opposite effects of what the writers of this initial draft intended”.
After wide consultation, SANZAF national chairperson Shaukat Fakie said the organisation decided to withdraw from the accord to “promote peace, harmony, tolerance and mutual respect” within the community.
The accord was tentatively released in December, 2017, but was officially released after a brutal attack on the Imam Hussain Masjid in Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal, which left one person dead and two others injured.
Despite continues pressure on the MJC to sign the document after the incident, the ulama body has to date not indicated that it has intention to support the accord.
“This discord had a direct impact on our reputation as a tolerant and dignified community who pride ourselves on our deen (religion) in our beautiful land,” the MJC’s statement read.
While confirming that it has not given its support for the document, the MJC denounced the alleged treatment of organisations that have in good faith backed the Cape Accord.
“Whilst the Muslim Judicial Council has not endorsed the Cape Accord, we reject the declaration of kufr (disbelieve) on our ulamā, individuals, and organizations, associated with the Accord.
“The South Africa National Zakah Fund (SANZAF), Awqaf (SA) and others, which have faithfully served this community for many years, do not deserve the vitriol that has been levelled at them – which is unbecoming of Muslims. We call upon the community to continue their support to these organizations, especially in this season of fiṭrah distributions to the needy.”
Meanwhile, the United Ulama Council of South Africa has questioned the role of the accord in the apparent “discord” currently witnessed within the Muslim community.
“The adage ‘do not fix what is not broken’ aptly applies to the Cape Accord. In South Africa, hate speech has never been the trait of mainstream ulama formations, nor have the overwhelming majority of pulpits of our masaajid ever promoted or advocated violent resolution to sectarian conflict,” UUCSA said in statement released on Monday.